Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Soccer agent Pagliara found guilty for soliciting bribes

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A football agent has been convicted of bribery charges following a Telegraph investigation. Giuseppe ‘Pino’ Pagliara, 64, was found guilty of soliciting bribes in order to gain influence in the selection, management and ownership of players.

Pagliara, of Bury, Greater Manchester, was found guilty of two counts of paying and facilitating a bribe.

The jury was still considering its verdict on Pagliara’s business partner Dax Price, 48, of Sittingbourne, Kent, on two counts of paying and facilitating a bribe.

The seven men and four women of the jury were also still considering their verdict on Tommy Wright, 53, the assistant manager of Barnsley FC, on two counts of accepting a bribe.

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The charges were brought after an undercover investigation by The Telegraph raised allegations of serious corruption against the three men.

Covert recordings of conversations between Pagliara and undercover reporters exposed claims that bungs and backhanders were commonplace in English football.

Pagliara was heard repeatedly claiming he were able to buy influence with managers.

There was no evidence to support the claims that the managers they named in the taped conversations – including Sir Alex Ferguson, Harry Redknapp and Steve McLaren – were guilty of accepting bribes of gifts and cash.

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But after six days of deliberation the jury at Southwark Crown Court decided unanimously that Pagliara had himself tried to buy influence and solicit favours through secret payments.

Pagliara was found to have arranged to pay Wright £5,000 in cash, with the promise of another £5,000 to come, in return for encouraging his players to sign with their sports agency, placing their players in the Barnsley first team, arranging a meeting with the owners of the club and supplying confidential information about his players’ contracts.

The bribe was paid in cash by an undercover reporter posing as an executive for a fictitious Far East sports conglomerate set up by this newspaper in 2016 as part of a sting operation, following a tip off about corruption in English football.

Following their arrest Pagliara repeatedly denied he was  corrupt, claiming in court he had been “grandstanding” and putting on a show for the fictitious conglomerate, named Meiran, telling its representatives “what they wanted to hear” in the hope of persuading it to buy a club. Pagliara claimed this end justified their means.

But over the course of the eight week trial the jury heard numerous boasts by Pagliara, made in covert recordings, that he was himself corrupt and was happy to corrupt others.

At one stage he was heard saying: “I love it when people say ‘Pino is involved in this deal, he’ll corrupt anybody’.”

He later stated to our undercover reporter: “I don’t share the time of day around the table with people who don’t take money. Everyone who works with me is dishonest. I’m a fucking thief and you don’t try and steal from me.”

The jury had also heard that Pagliara wanted to persuade Barnsley FC to enter a third party ownership arrangement with Meiran, by which the firm would own players on the club’s books.

Third party ownership arrangements are strictly against FA and FIFA rules.

During one meeting Pagliara, who was posing as an interpreter for an Italian football executive, told Patrick Cryne, the late-owner of Barnsley FC: “What normally happens, and it does happen, is a sponsorship agreement with the club, and on a separate part, a gentleman’s contract, as such based on a gentleman’s agreement, because it wouldn’t be lodged in the Football Association.”

There is no evidence Mr Cryne had any intention of entering any third party arrangement.

Before reaching their verdict the jury at Southwark Crown Court heard that in 2005 Pagliara, the then general manager of Venezia FC, was banned from Italian football for five years after taking a payment of 250,000 euros for his club to throw their last match against Genoa FC, who were seeking promotion.

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